Who Are We?
Thanks for coming to see what we’re all about!
We’re Rachel and Sasha, the founders of this travel and lifestyle website. We’re a couple of live music-loving digital nomads from the USA.
In 2010 we moved to China to teach English….and never moved home! After our epic gap year trip, we didn’t want the travel to end.
We decided to find a way to sustain a life of travel so we could explore faraway lands and see our favorite bands (read: Phish) anytime without having to ask a boss for permission.
And we did it!
But Here's Our Dirty Little Secret...
We’re not special or independently wealthy.
In fact, we graduated from college right into the great recession with student loans to boot. None of the job hunt methods we had been taught were working because there were no jobs in our respective fields of study. We hit a seriously low point as a result (keep scrolling to read the full story) so we had to improvise.
And that’s why we’re here – to show you that your life doesn’t have to follow a clear cut path. Taking a risk to try something different could be the best decision you ever make. If you stick around (which we hope you do) you’ll learn how to improvise YOUR life with our travel tips + advice for digital nomads and live music fans.
Truth be told, we were never interested in a typical 9 to 5 office job and a “normal” lifestyle. So allow us to share with you how we created our own digital nomad lifestyle.
In order for it to make sense, we have to go back to the beginning of us as a ‘we.’ Don’t worry, it’s a fun story, if I do say so myself, but we’ll let you be the judge of that.
It All Started at a Music Festival
We first met at Rothbury Music Festival in the summer of 2008.
The meeting was fleeting and Rachel didn’t remember it so well. Perhaps the bag of wine Sasha was toting around had something to do with that.
Sasha remembered and two weeks later at Camp Bisco Music Festival he proposed with a Ring Pop – down on one knee and everything – and just said: “Will you?”
That certainly had Rachel’s attention.
Sadly, Sasha already had plans to move to Beijing, China for a year – talk about bad timing! He managed to hold her attention through email and social media which wasn’t yet blocked in China. Rachel followed his adventures and started to think it looked kinda fun.
Sasha said the only thing that would bring him back early was if the band Phish got back together. Sure enough, at the end of that year, Phish announced their comeback tour for summer 2009.
We made plans, bought lots of tickets and spent that entire summer seeing music, living out of tents or with friends, making long drives across the country, and partying like rock stars. We had such a blast together that we decided to continue the fun past the summer.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
Sasha’s original plan was to return to Beijing but Rachel had other plans. She wanted to find a job in the Music Business, as that’s what her degree is in. So off to Nashville we went. The plan was to squat with friends in a college town south of the city until we found jobs and got on our feet.
Fast forward six months and the only progress we’d made was moving up to the attic just to feel like we had our own space. Our friends were still in college and behaving as students do – having raging parties every weekend.
Rachel struggled to find a job and even had to volunteer her time in a new restaurant for a few weeks just to be offered a serving position. None of her efforts of volunteering at music industry events and paying to join networking events led to any job opportunities.
The entry-level position she finally landed an interview for was given to someone who had experience as he’d been laid off from a higher position. Sasha had a teaching job for a month before they informed him that they, in fact, did not have any classes for him. At the last minute, no less. We needed food stamps just to get by.
It was a pretty weird and depressing time.
Somehow we managed to scrape together enough money to go to Miami for Phish’s New Years Eve run. While we were there, someone robbed our house. The thief stole Rachel’s computer and Sasha’s guitar, amongst other things. A few weeks later, Rachel’s car got robbed.
It felt like rock bottom.
Sasha mentioned it was pretty impossible for someone to break into your apartment in Beijing, to which Rachel replied, “Let’s go!”
Beijing Here We Come
In the spring of 2010, we headed off to Beijing to teach English on one-way tickets. This was familiar territory for Sasha but for Rachel, it was a whole new adventure.
I’d love to tell you this is where things started to look up but life was not immediately unicorns and rainbows.
We were flat broke when we landed and had to jump right into a job search. We didn’t even have enough money to rent our own place. We had to settle for renting an extra bedroom while we tried to get on our feet.
After a few months of conversations and observations, Sasha realized the American guy we rented the room from had lied about the total cost of rent and was overcharging us and our German roommate to the point where he was paying very little. He would eat our food, drink our beers, and ultimately revealed himself to be a sleaze ball.
So Sasha confronted him about it. He responded by being nice to us for two weeks. Then while we were away on a week-long trip to Inner Mongolia, moved all our belongings into a hotel across the street and went into hiding.
Imagine, coming home from a trip and suddenly not having a place to live in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language. And the staff at the hotel looks at you like a three-headed alien when you come to collect your belongings because they’re just as confused as you are.
Thank goodness Sasha already had friends in Beijing who were kind enough to let us sleep on their couches while we figured it out. Finally after three weeks and 30 apartment viewings, we found a dope apartment where we ended up living for three years.
The Epic Gap Year That Changed Everything
During those three years in Beijing, we went from freelance English teachers, stacking multiple part-time jobs, to fully TEFL-certified Foreign Trainers at a well-known corporate training center, the ESL equivalent of a 9-5.
Life was good in Beijing. We had a great group of friends and the ability to enjoy luxuries that seemed unattainable for us back in the US.
We also developed an insatiable wanderlust after our first backpacking trip to Thailand, traveling any and every chance we got.
It was on one such trip to Bali that Sasha asked Rachel, “Why are we going back to Beijing. I don’t want to go back.”
“Because we have jobs and a nice apartment.”
“What if we didn’t have those things? Let’s take a year off and just travel.”
Rachel said no, initially.
But after thinking about what a cool sotry that would be, she changed her mind. We set a budget that helped us save $25,000 and set off on our 14-month gap year in late summer of 2013. That’s also when we started this blog.
That trip took us all across the US to multiple cities, national parks, and Phish shows.
Then we hopped the pond back to Asia and traveled through South China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Here’s Rachel walking across a land border from China to Vietnam with nothing but a backpack:
Once our funds ran out we went back to China, this time to Kunming. Rachel quickly found a teaching job and signed a contract. Sasha had several freelance blogging assignements on his plate so he didn’t jump into a teaching job right away.
We thought we were ready to settle back into the typical grind of life, but all that travel had changed us. It was impossible to shake that intense feeling of freedom we experienced during our gap year. We had to find a way to keep the travel going.
Moving to Bali
During those 14 months in Kunming, a lot of things changed but there were three major highlights:
- we got engaged on New Years Eve at the Phish show in Miami,
- Sasha applied for and was accepted into the Darmasiswa Program at a university in Bali,
- and we saved enough money to live on in Bali for the duration of his program.
It was a good thing because it’s hard for foreigners to find work in Bali unless you possess a specialized skill. The Darmasiswa program paid a small stipend every month and Sasha still had his freelance blogging gig so it was decided that Rachel would focus on growing our blog and monetizing it.
So in the summer of 2015 we got married in Asheville, attended the Grateful Dead 50th anniversary concerts in Chicago, and moved to Bali.
For 9 months, we had an amazing time jet-setting around on our motor scooter, making new friends and taking in the beauty of the Island of the Gods. From volunteering at the Bali Spirit Festival to participating in the annual Nypepi festival, our time was nothing short of amazing.
But our blog still wasn’t making any money when our time in Bali was coming to a close. Rachel needed to find a way to earn money remotely to keep the dream of full-time travel alive. Going back to a job simply wasn’t an option.
Teaching English Online
After some searching and digging, Rachel found a job teaching English online with VIPKid.
That turned out to be the thing that gave us a truly location-independent lifestyle. The timing couldn’t have been better because we were craving time with friends and family (and live music) back home.
After living in Asia for 6 years, we returned to the US with no real long-term plans, other than to travel as much as possible.
The summer of 2016 saw us back on American soil for an epic month of music and plenty of time with family and friends. We decided to stick around through the holidays – mainly so we could catch Phish’s Halloween run in Vegas – and save up energy and money. Sasha also started teaching English online with VIPKid that fall which gave us the confidence to try our hand at true digital nomad life.
We kicked off 2017 by hopping on a bus down to Mexico. Most people thought we were crazy for taking a bus to Mexico, even our bus driver. But it turned out to be another great decision. We visited Monterrey, Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, and Guadalajara.
Rachel had been hearing lots about Puerto Vallarta and how great it was so we planned to spend a month there. And it was a good thing because traveling as a digital nomad is not the same as backpacking! We were exhausted and needed to slow down. So we settled (temporarily) in Puerto Vallarta.
6 Months in Puerto Vallarta & 6 Months Traveling
It didn’t take us long to get itchy feet again. After only six months of life in Puerto Vallarta, we hit the road again, this time to South America.
Starting in September 2017, we took off to Colombia and spent seven months traveling South America all while teaching English online. We checked off all our bucket list items – Galapagos Islands, NYE in Valparaiso, trekking in Patagonia, Carnaval in Brazil, Iguazu Falls, the Atacama Desert in Chile, the Salt Flats of Bolivia, and Machu Picchu.
By the end of that trip, we were again feeling a bit drained. So we went back to Puerto Vallarta and moved into a gorgeous apartment for 6 months. And that became our routine for the next couple of years – living in Puerto Vallarta for 6 months and traveling for 6 months.
We named 2018 the Year-Long Party where we had to hit up a festival, major sporting event, or cultural celebration every month for the entire year.
In 2019 we started the year in Playa del Carmen, saw Phish in Mexico, went to Envision Festival followed by another 2 weeks exploring Costa Rica, and then on to an extended trip in Guatemala that included the Easter processions in Antigua.
Later in the year, we returned to our backpacking roots and had enough money saved to travel overland through Mexico starting with the Dia de Muertos celebrations in Mexico City. From there, on to Cholula/Puebla, Oaxaca City, San Cristobal, an overland crossing into Guatemala, and a 3-day trek from Quetzaltenango to Lake Atitlan.
After a two-week break in Antigua, we carried on to Semuk Champey, Tikkal, Caye Caulker (Belize), and back to the Mayan Riviera.
We ended 2019 back in the USA spending the holidays with family and seeing live music for New Years.
And Then 2020 Came Along
2020 started out strong. It really felt like it was going to be our year. But the global pandemic changed everything. If you’re interested in learning what it was like for us, check out these posts:
- Coronavirus Update: Quarantine Life in Colombia
- Stay or Go? A Digital Nomad Dilemma
- Life During Quarantine Time: A Summer 2020 Recap
- 20 Things About 2020 That Didn’t Suck
We yet again returned to Puerto Vallarta where we could be outside all the time while we waited for the world to reopen for travel.
In 2021, things started looking up again. Live music was back! We returned to the US and had an incredible 6 months of domestic travel with our favorite bands and people.
But in the middle of it all, China banned online tutoring and we lost our main source of income.
Despite that and the ongoing pandemic, it was still an incredible year of live music. We saw Phish 25 times and Rachel hit her 100th show!
With the world the way it is right now, it’s difficult to make any travel plans. As we’ve learned, things can change quickly.
The best way to keep up with us in real time is to read our musings. This is where we tell our story and share things you won’t find anywhere else on the site.
One thing is for sure, our ability to improvise has served us well through these recent obstacles. We’re still teaching English online, growing this blog, and freelance writing.
We plan to continue our digital nomad lifestyle for as long as we’re still having fun doing it!
We’re Here to Inspire You!
We originally started our blog to keep our friends and family updated during our gap year. Then it transformed into a resource to show you another way of life.
Since we’ve been forced to slow down on international travel, we’ve focused more on finding other ways to work remotely and maintain an independent lifestyle. We share it all with you through our travel tips, teaching English online, sharing resources and inspiration to live your best digital nomad life, and live music travel guides.
Our goal is to give you a real-life glimpse into what creating your own lifestyle can be like. It’s not always pretty and it certainly isn’t easy but the freedom is totally worth it.
Make sure you subscribe by email or subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow us on Instagram or Facebook so you don’t miss any of the action! If you ever want to reach out to ask a question or say hello just contact us!
Rachel & Sasha 😀
Why We're Here
It is our belief that we live on both a very big and very small planet and traveling is an important way to understand and appreciate people and our diverse cultures.
However, traveling isn’t always easy and it’s certainly not cheap. We’ve funded our world travels by teaching English both abroad and now online.
Our goal is to show you how you can do the same – improvise your life until it’s exactly how you want it to be.
How to Navigate The Blog
Travel Tips – a collection of tips, tricks, and stories from the road. Browse through the posts in order or search by country.
Digital Nomad Lifestyle – tips, resources, and inspiration for aspiring + professional digital nomads.
Teach ESL – Interested in teaching English? This is the section for you. Learn about teaching English online or abroad in our ESL Around the World series.
Live Music – recounting live music experiences about concerts and music festivals + sharing our live music travel guides (read: Phish tour).
Musings – posts that tell our story and include personal anecdotes you won’t find elsewhere on the blog. No travel guides, how-to’s, or lists.
Resources – free resources created by us for you + our favorite tools and products.
Work With Us – all the details for possible collaborations, partnerships, and services.
Contact – Get in touch!
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